Things to do in Denver when you’re dead… tired, and have just three hours before your flight leaves: go to a bike shop and look around. Google Maps said there was a shop just eight miles from the airport, so I went to check it out. Turns out that the “shop” in question was actually the factory outlet for Tomasso Bikes.
As far as I could tell, Tomasso operates the same way that Bike Nashbar used to: they have frames built overseas and then they load ’em up with slightly better components than you would get on a “name-brand” bike like Trek or Cannondale. Aluminum Tomassos are made in Taiwan, carbon Tomassos in mainland China. To some degree, quick-bake companies like this have been rendered obsolete by Giant, which owns both the means of Chinese proudction and the means of American distribution. (This is why a Giant is almost always the best deal on a new bike, if you are purely concerned with specs.) Compared to those old Nashbar bikes, however, Tommasos are very handsome. They make a rather striking “hybrid” bike in military green, which was the first thing I saw when I walked in the door.
The fellow who came out to talk to me and show me a few bikes was on crutches, having been hit by a car during a road ride seven weeks ago. He’d gotten a femur nail, so we had a long conversation about that particular surgery and its consequences. I was an experimental recipient of a Grosse-Kempf titanium nail back in March of 1988. Luckily for my new friend, his break was much less severe than mine had been. He’d gone for a short bike ride just six weeks after the nail went in. At that point in my recovery I was still confined to bed 24/7.
Hanging on the wall across from that army-green hybrid bike was a drop-bar roadie, something about halfway between a tourer and a full-bore racer: the Corvo. It has the full Shimano 105 “gruppo”, which is to say that most of the parts on it are supplied by Shimano and that they are all “105” level. When I was a kid, Shimano had just three road-bike gruppos: Dura-Ace on top, 600 Ultegra in the middle, and 105 at the low end. Now there’s Tiagra below 105, and a few cheap-bike-specific gruppos like Sora and Claris. (A full explanation can be found here, if you care.)
“The Corvo is $1,699, which is a ripping deal for a full 105 bike,” my salesman said. By modern standards he’s right. And yet… if $1,699 is what you’d pay for a generic Chinese bike with Shimano 105, how much would you pay for an American-made bike with full 105? Would you be okay with… $1,282?